Is San Juan Safe for Travel? (Honest Local Advice for 2023)
San Juan is Puerto Rico’s capital city and the first destination many people venture to on the island, but the question on everyone’s mind is: is San Juan safe?
Despite some alarming crime rates you might find online, San Juan is one of the safest cities in Puerto Rico for tourists. Neighborhoods like Condado are no different than Miami, and Old San Juan has a very safe nightlife.
I’ve been to San Juan countless times at different hours and I’ve never had a negative experience. Of course, there are some tips you should know before you go. As a local, I’ve put together the best advice and information for staying safe in San Juan.
Table of Contents
- Is San Juan Safe?
- Things to Know About Safety in San Juan
- 5 Safety Tips for San Juan
- FAQs About Safety in San Juan
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Is San Juan Safe?
San Juan is generally a safe destination for tourists. While the crime rate is higher than in some other Puerto Rico cities, violent crime rarely affects visitors. If anything, travelers should take precautions regarding the COVID-19 pandemic, petty crime, and the potentially hazardous weather that can occur during hurricane season.
San Juan is the safest city for tourists in Puerto Rico. Although there are some dangerous areas, it features extensive public transportation, some of the best attractions in Puerto Rico, and beautiful beaches. Taking common precautions should be enough to stay safe.
The drug crime rates are high, but they don’t affect travelers. Rarely, visitors could experience petty crimes like pickpocketing and theft, but these events are mostly preventable by locking valuables away in a hotel safe.
What could be more concerning is the Puerto Rico’s hurricane season, as there is a major risk of natural disasters. But, even during this season, travel is still common as hurricanes don’t affect the island every year.
If you’re concerned about safety in San Juan, you may research whether travel insurance is right for you. VisitorsCoverage is a great site that allows you to pull quotes and compare dozens of insurers at once.
VisitorsCoverage is a travel insurance marketplace where you can quickly compare quotes from hundreds of insurers -- all it takes is a minute to enter your details!
Things to Know About Safety in San Juan
San Juan Travel Advisories
Even though San Juan is an overall safe place to visit, the Canadian and United Kingdom governments have issued a Puerto Rico travel advisory due to the presence of COVID-19. The CDC categorizes the United States as a high-risk country as of early 2022.
Although there is also a travel advisory for terrorism in the United States, the risk for terrorism in San Juan is low. Since San Juan is the capital city and the center of politics, demonstrations and protests of different kinds are common, but they’re harmless for tourists.
Petty theft is common in San Juan as in any other capital city in the world, and travelers need to take precautions against it.
Safe Neighborhoods and Areas in San Juan
Old San Juan and Condado are the top tourist-friendly neighborhoods in San Juan. You’ll find dozens of hotels, stores, and restaurants, and lots of police presence. These are also the areas with the best and safest nightlife.
Ocean Park, Hato Rey, and Miramar are also safe neighborhoods during the day. In Santurce, you’ll find great museums, bars, and pubs, but you should take some extra safety measures, especially during the night.
👉 Need a safe place to stay? Check my guide to the best neighborhoods to stay in San Juan!
Covid-19 Safety in San Juan
Since San Juan is the largest city in terms of population, COVID-19 infections are common. As of the beginning of 2022, 90% of the population has at least one dose of the vaccine and the government continues its efforts to fight the pandemic.
The public health situation changes rapidly in San Juan, and the situation may have changed by the time you read this. The below widget from CovidActNow pulls data daily and gives an overview of the current covid-19 situation in San Juan:
You may encounter covid-related restrictions in San Juan. As of early 2022, masks are mandatory indoors, on public transportation, and outdoors for everyone two years and older whenever social distancing isn’t possible. Restaurants, concert halls, theaters, and some bars will ask you for vaccination proof or a negative PCR test less than 72 hours old.
Visitors arriving at San Juan on a cruise will need to be fully vaccinated or present a negative PCR test to disembark in the city. Follow the Health Department of Puerto Rico and CDC to keep up to date with the changing situation.
📚 Bookmark for Later: Is Puerto Rico Safe for Travelers?
Crime in San Juan
While violent crime is present in San Juan, it is mostly related to drug and gang activity and rarely affects travelers. Tourists should be more aware of petty crimes like pickpocketing and robbery and take precautions against them like locking their cars, not walking around deserted streets at night, and not leaving their belongings unattended.
If you are concerned about pickpockets, consider bringing an anti-theft bag and also getting good travel insurance for your trip (you can compare quotes easily at the VisitorsCoverage website).
Common Scams in San Juan
Since San Juan is such a tourist city, scams do happen. Here are some common ones tourists should watch out for:
🚕 Taxi scam – Common taxi scams include drivers taking longer routes, not turning the meter on, or claiming they don’t have any change for a higher-value bill. Always ask your driver to turn the meter on to avoid paying higher rates.
🚗 Rental car scams – If you’re renting a car in San Juan, watch out for companies with inflated deposits or hidden fees. Sometimes they’ll try to get you to pay for details like sand inside the car or wet seats.
🗺️ False guides – “False guides” usually take you to shops where you’ll have to pay an inflated price and your “guide” will get a commission without your knowledge. Always use a trusted company or website to book your tours.
Hazardous Weather and Natural Disasters
Due to its location and tropical climate, Puerto Rico is prone to natural disasters and hazardous weather during certain seasons of the year. Consult our guide on the best seasons to visit Puerto Rico, and keep the following in mind:
⛈️ Hurricanes – Puerto Rico experiences a hurricane season from late June to November. Hurricanes are most likely to affect the island during this period but aren’t guaranteed. The last hurricane to affect Puerto Rico directly was in 2017.
🌊 Rip tides and swimming conditions – Depending on the season, beaches in San Juan might have strong tides and rip currents. Always check the local weather before swimming in Puerto Rico.
Female Travel Safety
San Juan is, in most aspects, safe for female travelers, but women traveling alone could expect some catcalling on the streets. It won’t usually escalate beyond that, so just keep walking and ignore anyone saying something. If you’re drinking outside, keep an eye on your drinks to avoid anyone spiking them, and don’t leave bars with strangers if you’re not in your best senses.
For more tips, see Sky’s guide to safe solo travel for women.
Water in San Juan is safe for drinking. It is processed by Autoridad de Acueductos y Alcantarillados, a government company that controls the water supply and sanitizes it as per the standards of the Environmental Protection Agency.
Travelers that are still worried can carry the Grayl water bottle, which features a quick and easy-to-use water filtration system that makes it safe to drink in seconds.
5 Safety Tips for San Juan
Tip #1 – Stay Out of La Perla
While many visitors venture into La Perla, it’s not the safest neighborhood in San Juan for travelers. Many travelers feel uncomfortable in the area so it’s best practice to just stay away. If you still want to visit, get a local guide and visit only during daylight hours.
Tip #2 – Lock Your Car
Cars are the main targets of thieves in San Juan. Never leave valuables in your car, park in well-lit areas whenever possible, and always lock your doors. Thieves will often break the windows if they see something valuable inside.
Read my guides to driving in Puerto Rico and renting cars in Puerto Rico if you’re planning to drive on the island.
Tip #3 – Don’t Swim with High Tides
While San Juan is home to some of the best beaches on the island of Puerto Rico, they have strong tides during the fall and winter seasons. Use common sense when visiting the beaches and stay out of the water if the tide is strong.
Tip #4 – Don’t Leave Your Things Unattended
The crimes that affect most tourists are theft and pickpocketing. Never leave your belongings unattended at restaurants and beaches, and don’t get distracted when someone is talking to you. Use your hotel safe to secure important documents and valuables.
📚 Continue Reading: Where to Stay in San Juan
Tip #5 – Walk in Groups
If you’re planning on partying at night, go out with company. Most crimes and theft happen at night, but large groups are always a dissuasive factor for criminals.
FAQs About Safety in San Juan
Is San Juan unsafe?
San Juan is a safe city for tourists. Old San Juan and Condado are safe even late at night and they have a strong police presence and a lively ambiance.
What parts of San Juan should be avoided?
Travelers should avoid walking around the streets of Santurce and La Perla late at night if there isn’t a special activity like a concert.
How safe is San Juan right now?
San Juan is one of the safest cities in Puerto Rico for tourists. Visitors should always take common safety precautions against COVID-19, petty crimes, and occasional hazardous weather.
Can I drink the water in San Juan, Puerto Rico?
Travelers can safely drink tap water in San Juan. Water in San Juan is potable and follows the Environmental Protection Agency’s standards for safe drinking water.
Don’t let your concerns keep you away from San Juan! It’s such an amazing city to explore with lots of things to do and beautiful beaches for your Caribbean vacation.
If you’re adventuring around Puerto Rico, read my guide to staying safe in Puerto Rico during your trip.
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I love Old San Juan and the night life. Never had a problem or safety concern.
San Juan is safe to travel, Anytime, any day…
San Juan is not that safe, at least the Condado area. Condado gives you a false sense of security, but in reality many tourists and residents are mugged every day. The streets are not safe at night. I’ve lived in the neighborhood for 20 years, so I try to caution everyone that’s not from the area to be careful. My husband was mugged and held at gunpoint just so they could steal his phone. When we reported the crime to the authorities they told us that it happens every day, many times a day, but the criminals never get caught.
Do you have an article on safe nightlife bars and neighborhoods that travelers could check out?
Taxi are safe, ask in advance how much is the ride, taxi regulations advise taxi drivers to not carry mush cash, so they don’t have change for large bills, taxis go by zone no by meter.
I lived in San Juan in the 60s and went back for a high school reunion in spring 2022. Stayed in Condado. We were serenaded by a 5 minute gun battle at 3AM, that was only a block or two from our hotel. Automatic weapons, indicating drug gangs. I would not recommend being on the streets after 11PM. Pick a highrise hotel and get a higher floor. I love San Juan and am sad to see the level of crime there now.
I spent almost every Saturday in PR mainly Old San Juan for about 5 years, been all around the world, and its the best place ever!
Its like London/New York……… IN THE SUN!!!!!!!